CATALOGUE: Benesch 601- (in progress)

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Benesch 0601 (HdG. 1119; Sch. 129)
Subject: The Prodigal Son among the Swine (Luke, 15, 17-19)
Verso: Laid down
Medium: Pen and brown ink. Inscribed verso (verso inspected but the drawing laid down again), in graphite, centre: “334.”
159 x 235. Watermark: countermark: ‘PR’ (probably countermark to a foolscap, cf. Laurentius, pp.233-36, dateable c. 1642-50); chain lines: 25h.
COMMENTS: The subject was and still is often represented in Christian art as an exemplar of the virtue of repentance and forgiveness: Christ’s Parable of the Prodigal Son relates how, having squandered his inheritance, the son is reduced to the lot of a swineherd. Penitent, as shown here, he decides to return to his father and beg his forgiveness: “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (vv.18-19). The specific subject of the son among the swine was treated by numerous artists before Rembrandt, who like many of them may have been inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s celebrated engraving of c. 1496 (Bartsch 28), which shows the same moment in the story.[1]
Rembrandt’s drawing has been dated variously, from the mid-1630s to c. 1650 (see Literature below). The earlier date was probably suggested by Rembrandt’s etching of the ‘Return of the Prodigal Son’ of 1636 (Bartsch 91, Hind 147), in which the son’s pose is superficially related.[2] In the light of the drawing’s stylistic proximity to a number of generally accepted sheets of c. 1645-55, however, the later date of c.1650 or even later is the most plausible.[3] Among the most comparable are two in Berlin, the documentary study for the Hundred Guilder Print, now in Berlin (Benesch 0188), probably of the mid-to-later 1640s, and the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter (also in Berlin; Benesch 1064), which is probably of the 1650s although it has been dated still later.[4] The latter can be stylistically related to the drawing in the Six Album of Homer Reciting Verses (Benesch 0913), which is dated 1652, but the analogies with drawings of the 1640s suggest that the present sheet could have been executed a little earlier, in about 1650-52. It also has features in common with drawings by Rembrandt’s pupil, Willem Drost, who was in the master’s studio at this time, similarities that lend support to the proposed dating without seriously challenging the attribution.
For the larger animals, seen in profile to left and right, Rembrandt seems to have looked back to his earlier drawings, Benesch 0778 and 0779 (see Fig.a),[5] with minor adjustments, especially to the hind legs of the pig on the left. Also shown in Fig.a is the Louvre drawing, Benesch 777, in which the pig on the left could have been the basis of the one seen from behind in Benesch 601.
Condition: Generally good, though perhaps slightly trimmed; some discolouration, especially down the right-hand side.
Summary attribution: Rembrandt.
Date: 1650-55?
COLLECTION: GB London, British Museum (Salting Bequest; inv. 1910,0212.179).
FURTHER LITERATURE/REMARKS: Waagen, 4, 1857, p. 215 (in James Collection); Brunet, 1866, p. 260 (as Waagen, 1857); Michel, 1893, p.585 (Salting, ex-James coll.); Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no. 1119; Exh. London, 1910, p. 5; Rembrandt Bijbel, 2, 1910, repr. opp. p. 65; Exh. London, 1912, no. 162;
London, 1915, no. 40, repr. pl. VI (c. 1635-40; compares the studies of pigs [Benesch 778 and 779]); Valentiner, 1, 1925, no. 387, repr. (c. 1636); Kauffmann, 1926, p. 175, n. 3 (c. 1635-36); Paris, 1933, p. 32, under no. 1193 (as London, 1915); Benesch, 1935, p. 42 (c. 1648-50); Exh. London, 1938, no. 40 (c.1635-40); Benesch, 3, 1955/73, no. 601, repr. fig.732/774 (c. 1647-8; notes London, 1915 comparisons are with much earlier drawings; compares several sheets including Good Samaritan, Benesch 0615, in Weimar, and Esau Selling his Birthright, Benesch 0606, in London); Sumowski, 1958, repr. fig. 42 (c. 1643); Roger Marx, 1960, repr. p. 334, fig. 154c; London, 1961, p. 22, under no. 187 (c. 1640; grouped with tragic or morbid themes in Rembrandt while discussing Benesch 0485a in Seilern coll.); Rotermund, 1963, p. 185, repr. fig. 200 (perhaps a reminiscence of Dürer); Sumowski, 1963, no. 41, repr. (c. 1643); Bernhard, 1976, 2, repr. p. 375; Clark, 1978, pp. 136-37 (one of several treatments of the subject by Rembrandt); Hoekstra, 4 (deel 2), 1981, repr. p. 46 (c. 1645-8); Exh. London, 1992, no. 52, repr. (c. 1650); Giltaij, 1995, p. 100 (not Rembrandt); London (online) 2010, no. 45 (c. 1650; otherwise as here – see; Schatborn, 2019, no. 129, repr. (c. 1652).
PROVENANCE: Andrew James; his sale, Christie’s, 28 April, 1873, lot 71, bt Parsons, £1-15-0; bequeathed by George Salting, 1910.
[1] As noted by Rotermund, 1963, p. 185. See also Haeger, 1986, for other treatments of the subject. The Dürer engraving is Bartsch 28.
[2] The drawing in Haarlem of the Return of the Prodigal Son, Benesch 0519 (qv), was also dated to c. 1636 (e.g. by Valentiner, I, 1925, no.388) but is now generally placed in the earlier 1640s.
[3] Although there are analogies with Rembrandt’s works of the first half of the 1640s, for example, with Benesch 0606, as pointed out by Benesch.
[4] By Benesch, for example, who placed it in the early 1660s.
[5] The comparison first made by Hind in London, 1915, no. 40.
First posted 22 May 2023.

Benesch 0602 (Hdg. -; Sch. -)
Subject: Hagar Weeping at Abraham’s Door, a fragment (Genesis, 21, 14)
Verso: Laid down
Medium: Pen and brown ink with some white bodycolour; ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink (which encompass the addition to the right). Inscribed on the verso of the mount with a note of the His de La Salle provenance and the drawing’s inclusion in Exh. Paris, 1921.
206 x 94/116 (expanded to 116 by a restorer’s addition to right). Watermark: Arms of Württemberg (fragment; resembles Heawood 485 of 1625, and Laurentius 212 and 221 of respectively 1624 and 1619); chain lines: 24v.
COMMENTS: In the truncated area to the right, the white bodycolour probably covers part of the figure of Sarah, and below this an arm remains visible, presumably Ishmael’s. For the subject, often treated by Rembrandt and his pupils, compare for example Benesch 0524, Benesch 0916 and Benesch 0948a, as well as the 1637 etching (Bartsch 30; NH 166).
The style, with its even, strong parallel hatching, and the lack of variety in the pressure of the touch, is entirely consistent with drawings from the “Willem Drost “ group (for his stylistic characteristics see further under Benesch 0573). As well as Benesch 0603, one might compare the seated Elijah in Benesch 0944 or Tamar in Benesch A113 (see Fig.a).[1] Here these characteristics are repeated, as in so many drawings now attributed to Drost. Several writers have already questioned the attribution to Rembrandt.[2]
Condition: Truncated to right, otherwise good (with some minor spotting).
Summary attribution: Willem Drost?
Date: 1650-54?
COLLECTION: F Paris, Musée du Louvre (Walter Gay bequest ; L. 1886a ; inv. RF 29037 ; MS inventaire, 25, p. 443).
FURTHER LITERATURE/REMARKS: Lippmann, 3, 64; Exh. Leiden, 1906, no. 2a; Exh. Paris, 1908, no. 290; Exh. Paris, 1921, no. 86; Valentiner, 1, 1925, no. 22 (c.1645); Hautecoeur, 1927 (unpaginated); Benesch, 1935, p. 42; Hamman, 1936, p. 557, repr. pl. 123 (school); Benesch, 3, 1955/73, no. 602, repr. fig. 733/775 (c. 1648; relates style to Benesch 0603, Benesch 0606 and Benesch 0607; pace Hamann, 1936, not a school work); Sumowski, 1961, p. 12 (Van Hoogstraten); Slive, 1965, 2, no. 398, repr. Lippmann’s facsimile (c. 1645-48); Rotermund, 1969, p. 15, repr. pl. 23; Exh. Paris, 1970, no. 191; Paris, 1988, no. 276, repr. (c.1650 or slightly later); Exh. Paris, 1988-89, no. 47, repr. (c.1650-54; one might think of Drost; compares Rembrandt etchings of 1650s for hatching, Bartsch 42 and 83, NH 265 and 286); Royalton-Kisch, 1990, p.136, no. 47 (likely by Willem Drost, cf. Benesch 0944 and Benesch A113 [Sumowski 560x]).
PROVENANCE: A. C. H. His de la Salle (L. 1333); Walter Gay, by whom bequeathed in 1938 (presented through his widow, 1941).
[1] Benesch A 113 is in Rotterdam (inv. R 9 – see Rotterdam, 1988, no. 61, repr., as by Drost, and (accessed 26 May 2023). Pen and brown ink, 128 x 155 (on loan from the Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 1940 (from the former collection of Franz Koenigs).
[2] See Literature – Hamann, 1936; Sumowski, 1961 (who suggested Van Hoogstraten); Starcky in Exh. Paris, 1988-89 and Royalton-Kisch, 1990.
First posted 26 May 2023.

Benesch 0603 (HdG 1146; Sch. -)
Subject: The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matthew, 20, 10-16)
Verso: Blank
Medium: Pen and brown ink, rubbed with the finger. Inscriptions: none
143 x 122. Watermark: foolscap with 5-pointed collar; chain lines: 24h.
COMMENTS: In the story of Christ’s Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, the owner of a vineyard went out four times in one day to hire labourers. At the end of the day he paid everyone the same amount, but those who had worked all day complained. They were told that they should not begrudge the landlord’s generosity and should accept what they had agreed. The purpose of the story was to explain the difference between worldly and spiritual rewards and God’ mercy. In the drawing, the landlord, seated at his desk with an account-book and pen, turns to reply to two workers. One doffs his cap with his left hand, which was first shown pointing across his chest, and indicates his (unseen) colleagues to the left with his right hand. The second labourer appears on the point of signing his receipt with the pen offered by the landlord while holding his left hand to his chest in a gesture of humility.
Like Benesch 0602, the style of the drawing conforms entirely to works now ascribed to the “Willem Drost” group (for which see under Benesch 0573), with its plethora of evenly-applied hatching that tends to flatten the forms, generally solid outlines, and a tendency towards rectangular and other geometrical forms in the description of the parts of the body, such as the arms in the present example, as well as the drapery. Numerous drawings from the same group may be compared, including the sketches already compared in the entry for Benesch 0603, the Elijah in Benesch 0944 or Tamar in Benesch A113 (now in Rotterdam (see Fig.a).[1] In the Turin drawing, the abbreviated and indeed timid depiction of the legs and feet are also consistent with drawings in the “Drost” group, as is also the unresolved treatment of the lower periphery generally. These aspects undermine the traditional attribution to Rembrandt and the association with Drost would explain the stylistic drawing’s proximity to Rembrandt’s own works of the early 1650s, when Drost was most probably studying in his studio. The earliest signed and dated paintings by Drost date from 1652, around which time he may have completed his training with Rembrandt,[3] and the Turin drawing was probably made in these years.
The attribution to Drost should not diminish our appreciation of the drawing’s finer qualities: the poise and balance of the figure group, with the vineyard-owner emphasised by an arch above him; the interaction of the figures through their individual gestures and characterisations; and the economy of the lines that describe them. They reveal Drost to have been capable of emulating his master closely, and it is therefore no surprise that the drawing was for so long considered to be by Rembrandt himself. However, another, inferior version of the subject, apparently by the same artist (Benesch 0604), reveals that his achievements were uneven, and lacked Rembrandt’s consistency. The composition is less compact, the spatial relationships are unclear and the details of the figures less securely drawn. It may be that this other version preceded the more successful Turin drawing, which greatly improves on these shortcomings. Compare also the treatment of the subject in Benesch 0605. Rembrandt made a painting of the subject some 15 years before, in 1637.[2]
Condition: Somewhat light-struck and foxed, otherwise good.
Summary attribution: Willem Drost?
Date: 1650-52?
COLLECTION: I Turin (Torino), Biblioteca Reale (L. 2724; inv. 16448b D.C.).
FURTHER LITERATURE/REMARKS: Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no. 1146; Frizzoni, 1908, p. 408; Ricci, 1918, p. 63; Hofstede de Groot, 1923-24, p. 114, repr.; Valentiner, 1, 1925, no. 371, repr.; Benesch, 1935, p.42; Exh. Turin, 1951, no. 15; Exh. Milan, 1954, no. 235; Benesch, 3, 1955, no. 603, repr. fig. 734/776 (c. 1648; notes pentimento in the raised arm of the further labourer; compares for style Benesch 0602, Benesch 0606-7 and Benesch 0609); Kuznetsov, 1961; Sumowski, 1961, p. 16; Exh. Milan, 1970, no. 18; Sciolla, 1972, p. 72, n. 1; Sciolla, 1974, p. 64, n. 105; Sciolla, 1976, no. 32, repr.; Exh. Turin, 1982, no. 2; Exh. Turin, 1989, no. 146; Exh. Turin, 2006-7, no. 14, repr. (attributed to Willem Drost); Rotterdam, 1988, under no. 151; Sciolla, 1990, no. 146.
PROVENANCE: Giovanni Volpato; Carlo Alberto of Savoy, King of Sardinia, 1839;
[1] Lugt, 1933, p.54, under no.1287; Henkel 1942, p.44, under no.89. For further details of the Rotterdam drawing, see under Benesch 0602, n.1.
[2] State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Bredius 558; Wetering 151). The main figures are in reverse and it only resembles the Turin drawing superficially. The painting was classed as a studio copy of a lost Rembrandt by Corpus, 3, 1989, no.C88 (although this writer has always believed it is by Rembrandt himself, as recorded in Exh Turin, 2006-7, under no.14, n. 4) and returned to Rembrandt by Wetering in Corpus, 5, 2011, pp. 206-207 and Corpus, 6, 2015, no. 151. Corpus, 5, p. 573 refers to the inspiration the painting provided for Benesch 0605 and a version in Berlin (HdG 59; Berlin, 2018, no. 33, repr. as Anthonie van Borssom).
First posted 30 May 2023.